THE BEATITUDES have two important elements: a) a blessing; and b) a promise. First, Jesus pronounces blessedness to those people who embrace the values of the kingdom. Second, there is an accompanying promise of eternity he gives to them. Jesus had a clear vision for humanity and he expressed it as “Kingdom of God”. It is a situation in which human beings can experience true happiness and fulfillment by accepting and experiencing God as a loving father and all human beings brothers and sisters. For Jesus ‘Kingdom of God’ is not merely a future reality but a reality here and now. In order to experience the kingdom of God human beings have to undergo a radical transformation affecting their attitudes, value system, behavior and relationships. The beatitudes given in the gospel of the day is a project of life for every Christian to attain perfection as the Lord wanted, be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.
The practices of the beatitudes are one of the biggest challengesin a world that is materialistic, where the values are contrary to the gospel values. The World has a spirit, as each age has a spirit. In the Beatitudes, Bishop Fulton Sheen says Our Divine Lord takes those eight flimsy catch words of the world- “Security,” “Revenge,” “Laughter,” “Popularity,” ”Getting Even,” “Sex,” “Armed Might,’” and “comfort” and turn them upside down. He speaks of the Mount of Beatitudes and the Mount of Calvary. He who climbed the first to preach the Beatitudes must necessarily climb the second to practice, what he preached. The sermon, on the Mount constitutes the “essence of Christianity.”
There are thirty-seven beatitudesin the New Testament, seventeen of which are sayings of Jesus. Beatitudes appear in the Old Testament as well. The first reading tells us that true beatitude consists in placing our trust in God and in putting our trust in His promises. The Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 1), finds beatitude in keeping God’s Law. St. Paul warns us, in the second reading, that true beatitude is obtainable only in Heaven, and that Christ’s Resurrection is our assurance of reaching Heaven for an everlasting life of happiness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution because these contradict our natural expectations in every way. “Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted and denounced,” because in poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. Experiencing these miseries opens the way for us to receive the true riches, food, comfort and acceptance we can find only in His love and His presence here, and in His Kingdom forever. The beatitudes are commands for how we should live, and what we should do. What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering for the Faith but living these in the context of our commitment to Jesus and His spirit of sharing.
Liberation in the “Beatitudes:Luke presents the beatitudes as reinforcing what Mary had said a few chapters earlier in the Magnificat: “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” The themes of the beatitudes reappear throughout both Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s account, alone among the Gospels, expands on the words spoken by Jesus at his inaugural sermon in Nazareth. There, Jesus declared an “option for the poor” and “liberation from oppressive forces” with the powerful theme of economic and social reversal clearly stated. Luke’s account also demonstrates Jesus’ solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable and with women, minorities, and the socially despised. In both Matthew and Luke, the beatitudes are a “series of bomb-shells” or “flashes of lightning followed by the thunder of surprise and shock” for Jesus’ hearers. That is because Jesus reverses our “natural” assumption that happiness lies in riches, pleasure, comfort and influence, and emphasizes the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution, not in themselves but in what they can do. He also challenges his listeners to find the fulfillment of all their needs in God. Jesus teaches that, although the poorare despised, resented or pitied by the world, God loves them deeply in their poverty, their sadness, their hunger and their deprived status. This is the basis of the so-called “option for the poor” that we are called to have.
To those who say “You cannot be happy unless you are rich,” He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That does not mean having no money. One could have lots of money and be poor in spirit at the same time although it would be more of a challenge. Being poor in spirit is not relying on own abilities but trusting in God instead. We are poor in spirit when we rely on God for his help to get us through life. We are poor in spirit when we have made plans and they fall asunder and we have to ask God’s help. Being poor in spirit is admitting that we are sinners in need of God’s grace and help. Being poor in spirit is admitting that we are absolutely nothing without God and that everything we have comes from God.
Happy are those who mourn, could mean accepting setbacks, failures and crisis with a sporting spirit or as a challenge. You might say to me that mourning is not a happy experience so how could Jesus say that mourners are blessed. What Jesus meant is “blessed are those who are sorry for their sins and the sins of others.”
Becoming a righteous person and working for the cause of righteousness is another expectation of Jesus from his disciples. Jesus wants honesty and integrity as the hallmark of his disciples and they work hard for creating a society in which righteousness flourish. The various religious practices of a disciple of Christ should enable him/her to become honest and upright. Such honest persons may come together and start a movement against corruption, which has affected the society as a deadly cancer.
Jesus calls those who are persecuted for their Faith blessedbecause 1) they are eligible for a glorious reward (“Your reward will be great in Heaven“), 2) they are given the privilege of sharing in the pain, suffering, and rejection which Jesus himself endured for our sins, and 3) they are following in the footsteps of the martyrs of the Old Testament period and of the early martyrs of the infant Church. The thousands of Christians who courageously face persecution for their Faith in different parts of the world today share in the same beatitude. Bearing heroic witness to their Faith in Christ Jesus, they teach and inspire us to do the same.